Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baby red squirrels make good neighbors

I am well aware that a squirrel is considered a rodent, lumped together with squeal inducing varmints like mice & rats. However I've always found them quite adorable, even cuddly in fact. I am also well aware that most civilized human beings may not share in my adoration of these
little, furry, scampering, chattering critters, and I'm alright with that. The recognition of this disparity between myself and "normal" folks is important in spotting & appreciating the humor in the most recent adventure in nature that I was blessed to experience with my boys.
Over the long Independence Day weekend we decided to camp in our RV at Ausable Chasm Campground in New York State. Located in the vast upstate region of New York (way to narrow it down since everything above NYC is apparently considered "upstate") near the Adirondacks, about 15 or so miles below Plattsburgh. Ausable Chasm itself is an impressive geological formation, a deep gorge carved out of the surrounding rock. I won't bore you with all of the amazing facts & details, I'll let you discover those on your own.
When we arrived at the campground on Friday afternoon and began to set up our site, we were immediately greeted by the sweetest quadruplets I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Four pint sized balls of fluffy red energy came bounding down the nearest pine tree, straight for us. Within no time at all our campsite set-up had come to a screeching halt, and we were butt-down on the ground, mesmerized by these amazingly animated creatures. They climbed all over us, let us pet them, let us pick them up, fell asleep in my oldest son's hands, they clearly had not developed a healthy fear of humans yet. This went on for another hour, as my husband graciously got the RV hooked up & leveled out all by himself, while the boys & I reveled in our new found friends. That is when our campsite neighbors arrived back at their RV..........
There had been no vehicle accompanying the fifth wheel camper that was set up in the spot next to ours when we arrived. Since this region of New York is full of places to go & sights to see, most folks don't hang out at the campground much during the day. When our campsite neighbors returned from their daytime jaunt, I could see that their license plate indicated they hailed from Ontario. We were so excited about sharing our enchantment with these two new campers from Canada that we never stopped to think about their reaction. Imagine our surprise when the baby red squirrels dashed up the hill to greet the newcomers, only to be met with "Eeeeks!!" and kicking feet. The woman dashed into her RV as quickly as her legs would carry her, and the man tiptoed over the bewildered little squirrels to join her. Obviously not fans. If the story had ended there, I would've been alright with their initial reaction. But of course, it does not.
A mere 20 minutes later, an older gentleman sporting an official campground t-shirt exited the offices and headed into our campsite armed with a box. I quickly let him know that the squirrels were by no means bothering us, and that I believed I had spotted their mother overseeing the situation from above. She most likely had evicted
them today, and they were on their own, exploring the new world around them. He nodded a vague understanding and informed me that my lovely Ontario neighbor had called the front desk, was in fear for her safety, and wanted the four baby red squirrels relocated during her stay. HA!
As you can imagine I had a field day with this one! Imagine the audacity of someone, to make the conscious decision to go camping, in the woods, and then ask to have the wildlife relocated upon arrival. I might've loosened my view on her request if there had been a black bear wandering about the campground.... but BABY squirrels?? I voiced my opinions, of her and her ridiculous request very loudly. I offered solutions, perhaps a relocation of HER would solve the issue? The campground employee smiled knowingly, thanked me with his eyes, and informed me that the campground was full. Moving Mrs. Anti-squirrel was not an option, and obviously, neither was moving the squirrels.
Much to my neighbor's dismay, the squirrels stayed with us throughout the entire weekend. The first night they all curled up together next to our fire ring and slept the whole night through. As each day passed the braver ones struck out on their own to start their new lives, leaving us with just two late bloomers by Monday. We shared our good fortune with other campers (the ones who shared in our enthusiasm for nature), basking in the sheer delight that is evident on the faces of children who are experiencing something new and exciting, something you know that they'll talk about once they are home and remembering their trip. By Tuesday's departure, all of the squirrels had "fledged", had found their way, had left the nest. They had done what they were supposed to do, had done what came natural to them, and in the midst of it all we were allowed to be included, to witness their beginning, to share in their discovery of the world, and it was wonderful. Had we chosen a different site, arrived on a different day, not come at all... it may have played out the same in our absence. Or it may not have.

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful story. The little squirrels were lucky they found you first. I've had similar encounters myself. The other family should have known what they were getting into when they went out there. They were the invaders that needed to be relocated. That was the squirrels' home. I'm glad it all worked out well in the end.